Genetic Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Certain genetic mutations are strongly associated with pancreatic cancer. More than 90 percent of pancreatic tumors have an abnormal copy of a gene called KRAS. In other pancreatic tumors, inactivation of genes such as p16 and p53, which normally suppress the development of cancerous tumors, may lead to pancreatic cancer. Approximately 10 percent of people with pancreatic cancer have one or more inherited genetic mutations that can also cause other diseases, including familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome, familial breast cancer, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, and hereditary pancreatitis. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes—which increase the risk of breast, prostate, and certain gynecologic cancers—have been found in some families with a history of pancreatic cancer.

Family History of Pancreatic Cancer

An estimated five to ten percent of people with pancreatic cancer have one or more family members who have had the disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, people with a family history of pancreatic cancer are nine times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than others. 

Genetic Testing and Counseling

If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, we can help assess your personal risk for the disease. The Cancer Genetic Counseling Program in Mount Sinai's Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, staffed with expert genetic counselors and medical geneticists, works to help families understand their personal and/or family history of cancer. We evaluate the probability of hereditary cancer susceptibility in your family and coordinate genetic testing. We also offer testing to all newly-diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients, regardless of family history, in keeping with standard of care/national guidelines.

Our specialists may refer you to our Pancreatic Cancer Prevention and Surveillance Program, which is investigating the causes of pancreatic cancer in people with a family history of or hereditary predisposition to pancreatic cancer.

If you have had genetic tests done by another health care provider and would like additional information about your test results, you are welcome to receive genetic counseling at Mount Sinai.

BRCA Program

Patients with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are at increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.

Mount Sinai’s Comprehensive BRCA Program for men and women who have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene provides expert guidance to ensure that you receive appropriate cancer screenings, monitoring, and treatment, as needed.